Briarwood falls to Mountain Brook for first loss of season

Published 12:37 am Friday, October 8, 2021

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor

MOUNTAIN BROOK – The Briarwood Lions put together an improved second half against No. 6 Mountain Brook on Thursday night, Oct. 27, but the No. 2 Lions couldn’t overcome a 14-0 first-half deficit.

After falling behind 14-0 in the first half, the Lions came out strong defensively in the second half and didn’t give up a point the rest of the way, but the offense came away emptyhanded three times in the red zone in the second half to drop their first game of the season.

“I saw a lot of fight and heart,” Forester said after the loss. “That’s what I love about the team, this team specifically. We were doing a little feeling out in the first quarter, and then we found out, we can really play with them. Then, we came out and we battled. I’m really proud of our team for the fight they showed. We got down early, and it was just too much to overcome.”

Ultimately, a sloppy first half became the difference in the loss for the now 7-1 Lions.

In a half riddled by penalties and bad field position for Briarwood, the Lions did force an early goal-line stop with a fumble recovery at their own 1-yard line, but they were forced to punt after one first down.

Mountain Brook capitalized by returning the punt 74 yards for the game’s first touchdown and a 7-0 lead with 3:45 remaining in the opening quarter.

That set the tone for a first half in which the Spartans started the rest of their drives at their own 42-yard line or better, including four of six at midfield or better, while the Lions started every drive at their own 23-yard line or worse, including three inside the 15.

With Briarwood’s backs against the wall most of the first half, Mountain Brook capitalized on the constant pressure on its next drive following the punt return.

After converting a third-and-25 at the Briarwood 48-yard line with a 28-yard pass, the Spartans picked up a touchdown shortly after on third-and-5 from the 10-yard line to take a 14-0 lead with 10:50 left in the opening quarter.

The Lions, however, found big defensive stops the rest of the way.

Briarwood gave it right back to the Spartans at the 42-yard line shortly after, but ultimately forced a missed 43-yard field goal.

Then, after giving it back on their next drive, the Lions recovered a fumble with Mountain Brook driving once again at the Briarwood 21-yard line.

The Lions put together their best drive of the half after, but back-to-back sacks and a fumble as time ran out prevented a score before the break.

“(Field position) was the killer,” Forester said of the first 24 minutes. “In the first half, they had one possession where they started inside the 40, everything else was on the other side of the 50. And we didn’t do a good job defensively to give our offense any field position.

But the Lions made adjustments and got the ball first to start the second half.

Briarwood put together an impressive 13-play drive with quick routes into the middle of the Mountain Brook defense and better play on the edges to drive to the Spartans’ 24-yard line.

But a new problem presented itself—finishing drives.

It marked the first of three drives into the red zone that ended with no points due to penalties, sacks or turnovers on downs.

A sack and loss of 9 yards led to third-and-15. A play later, quarterback Christopher Vizzina was hit as he released the third-down thrown, ultimately leading to another punt.

The defense quickly gave it back to the offense, which led to another strong drive all the way to the Mountain Brook 10-yard line.

Another sack, however, led to a 10-yard loss, taking third-and-3 to fourth-and-13. The Lions did get 10 yards back on a penalty, but then had a false start and ultimately failed on fourth-and-8.

After the defense gave the ball back to the Lions in good field position following a blocked punt, Briarwood got to the 38-yard line and faced fourth-and-9.

A fumble at the line to gain, however, gave it back to Mountain Brook with 6:26 to play.

Briarwood’s defense stepped up one more time by forcing a missed field goal on the ensuing drive, giving the offense one more chance at points.

The Lions, starting the drive with 3:59 left, made it all the way to Mountain Brook’s 26-yard line, but an interception on fourth-and-9 with just more than a minute left sealed the game.

“Coach (Robert) Evans does an incredible job,” Forester said of Mountain Brook’s defensive coordinator. “The tighter you get to the goal line, the tighter it gets against them, and they proved that tonight. We’ll learn from it, we’ll get better and we’ll clean up some stuff.”

Despite the loss, Forester was proud of his defenses effort, especially the front seven in the second half.

“I was incredibly proud. I though tour defensive line was dominant. As far as the run game goes, I was really proud of that defensive line and linebacker corps,” he said. “We’ve seen major improvement from them all year, and they continued to show that tonight, so I’m super proud of that whole front seven for doing a good job.”

Briarwood is now 4-1 in region play with a bye week next week and one last region game against Homewood in a battle for home field advantage in the opening round of the playoffs on Oct. 22.